A New Short Story

On Sunday, the fab team at Cast of Wonders, a young adult audio magazine, will broadcast my flash fiction story, “Come With Me,” along with two other shorts that I am really eager to hear! “Come With Me” is a creepy story I wrote for a prompt long ago, and it’s one of those pieces that felt effortless. This doesn’t happen often, sadly, but when it does my euphoria is great.

[ETA: Click here to reach Episode 99, which includes “Come With Me,” “The Piper” by Ian Rose, and “The Boatman” by J.A. Ironside.]

Writing a novel is engrossing and magical – there’s no way to describe how involved I get in the characters and their worlds (although, um, the word obsessive might work…). For me, writing a short story is fun. It’s still work, and I revise and revise and revise, just like I do with my novels. I get immersed like I do with my novels, and I obsess, but it’s different. The time it takes to write and revise is shorter. I don’t have to keep an entire 300 pages’ worth of information in my head, and worry about plot holes or how subplots do or don’t support the theme, or if characters behave consistently over a long story arc. Short stories are packed with emotion and mood delivered in just a few scenes, often with a change that is sudden or surprising. If I can come up with a twist, even better.

I’m especially thrilled that Alice Munro, an author I admire greatly, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday. I am notorious for not paying attention to any kind of news, but happened upon the story in Publisher’s Lunch. She’s quoted in The New York Times as saying, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” I wonder why it is that people wouldn’t see the short story as an important art? I understand there isn’t the market for short stories that there is for novels, that it’s harder to publish short story collections… And I’m a part of that market. I am more likely to reach for the novel than the short story collection. Why is that?

Something else that perplexes me: earlier this year, Ms. Munro announced she was finished writing. It seems…well, I just can’t imagine quitting writing. I could imagine being done with publishing books (I’ve imagined that scenario over and over and haven’t even published a book), so maybe that’s what she means? I don’t in any way think she’s not passionate about writing or anything like that, but I just don’t get it. Homes told me that sometimes people get tired of one thing and just want to move on to something new. Maybe someday I’ll understand.

Some Ways to Recharge

We ALL need rest (although try telling that to my five-year-old). So I started thinking about what helps me relax and stock up on energy…here are my ideas.

1. I prepare for recharging like I’d prepare for a visit from a friend. Yes, this is a little counter-intuitive because I’m doing some work up front, but it’s worth it. The house doesn’t have to be spotless, but I try to get it to a decent point. Then I plan some activities and good food, clear my schedule and cut back on obligations, and it’s all worth it for the recharging time ahead.

2. Limit screen time. This is a big one. It’s easy for me to zone out in front of the computer or television, but at the end of it, I totally do NOT feel rested. There’s noise. Noise noise noise noise, like the Grinch says. So turning those off and getting into a book or a notebook or an artsy project (see 4, below) is what helps me.

3. Cat naps! Goes without saying, really.

4. I try to do something creative, but only if it doesn’t feel like “work.” Writing can fall into this category, but if I’m not having a good time, I should work on something else, like a Shiny New Idea, or…scrapbooking, or making my kids’ Halloween costumes.

5. Sort of related to the above, PLAY. If I can sit down, with or without the kids, and break out the crayons and a coloring book, I’m a happy girl. It is SO soothing. Same with Play-Do, LEGO, My Little Ponies….

There’s more, of course, but I’m going to take my own advice and relax. Well, not really. I’m in Tip 1, which is setting the scene for recharging. I’ve got a few writing-related things I need to wrap up over the next few weeks. I’m taking a month-long break from this blog, although I’ll still do my two scheduled posts at the YA Muses, and I’ll try to comment on other blogs occasionally. So, my next post here will be October 11th.

Friday Five

1. I made my first green smoothie yesterday, thanks to advice from my BFF K-Joy! It was a beginner’s green smoothie, with spinach, banana, and lots of blueberries. Actually quite tasty. Maverick loved it. Z loved it until she heard that I put spinach in there. I’ll make another one tomorrow. Wonder if Z will believe me when I say the green color comes from candy?

2. The YA Muses recently gave their website a “mindblowing” overhaul with a gorgeous redesign by Lia Keyes. They also expanded their ranks to include six New Muses, and I’m thrilled to be one of them. My first post went up last week. It was fairly straightforward to write a post talking about myself (although, yes, terrifying). But even worse is next week, when I’m supposed to write something about character. I think I’ve mentioned here before that I shy away from giving advice on craft because I am hardly an expert and have no street cred whatsoever. But I have to figure out something, and soon. It’s probably bad form to find a guest-poster for my first craft post…but I’m tempted.

3. What is it about kids and how no matter what one kid has, the other one wants it?

Never mind. I don’t think it’s just kids who do this.

4. Last week we had four excellent entries in Colonel Shifty’s Haiku Made Easy query critique/poem giveaway! I’ve decided to select more than one winner. In fact, we’ve got four winners. PB Rippey, Randi (AKA my mom), Myrna Foster, and Jamie Weil! Congratulations! I’ll be in touch to find out if you want a query critique or a poem.

5. A Shiny New Idea came to me the other day, giving me some energy & extra motivation to finish up the books I’m working on now. Once again, my Shiny New Idea is about something I know laughably little about. I think that’s part of the fun, though – exploring something so new that I start by borrowing children’s books on the topic. (Apologies to any local kids who need to do book reports on that subject anytime soon. I just cleared a shelf out of the library.)

Colonel Shifty’s Haiku Made Easy – Query Critique or Poem Giveaway

Okay, so I actually used to do this when I worked in a restaurant. On my close-out envelope, I’d write a few 5- and 7-syllable options and ask a coworker to choose and voila, a ready-made haiku. Indulge me?

1st Lines
sweet peppers pungent
giraffes wear lipstick
television light
traveling rat spa
little mermaid fin

2nd Lines
winter elephant in bloom
LEGO music Clair de Lune
ice cream melts antagonist
Wichita parades at noon
lavender shoe fetishist

3rd Lines
ickle ockle blue
scented miracle
Areola’s smile
superstar panda
jealous macaroon

Post your haiku in the comments! One entry per person, but feel free to create as many as you like. And feel free to switch things up a bit (substitute words or lines of your own or whatever). Winning haiku will be chosen by Colonel Shifty on Thursday, August 29th at 1:36 pm Pacific time. (Colonel Shifty is actually a gopher, so I will help him by drawing a name out of a hat or using some kind of number generator thingie.) The prize…the prize…um. (Can you tell I’m winging this whole thing?) I’ll critique your query letter. If you don’t have a query letter, or don’t want me to critique it, I will write you a poem. A personalized poem! By me! Yay!

SCBWI Summer Conference 2013

Because I’m probably the last person to blog about the conference, this’ll be a quick-n-dirty version. For the keynotes and workshops, I took varying amounts of notes, but for each one I tried to find a take-away message – something I could refer to or apply directly to my writing. Here’s a quick compilation of my take-away messages. I tried to remember which take-aways are direct quotes & gave them the necessary punctuation; I apologize for any mistakes. In 40 handwritten pages of notes and reflections, mistakes are inevitable.

Laurie Halse Anderson: “Defend, protect, and celebrate childhood.”

Jon Scieszka: “Don’t put kids to sleep – wake ’em up!”

Veronica Rossi: Get to work on the log lines – they can help you figure out if your book is high-concept or not. (I only got to stay for half of Veronica’s talk.)

Steve Malk: Get your priorities straight, and be honest. Find a career model to follow.

Panel on YA Worldbuilding with Veronica Rossi, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Tahereh Mafi, & Ransom Riggs: How the world is, is important. How your character views the world and how the world & character interact – VERY important.

Mac Barnett: “Do bold, experimental things.”

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: When cowriting a novel, decide message & tone, level of humor vs. seriousness.

Matt de la Pena: “Put your head down, don’t worry about where you fit in, & work your ass off.”

Melissa Manlove: “When you want something you can’t have, it marks you in some way.”

Carolyn Mackler: Get your priorities straight. It’s okay to go slow with the writing & focus on these years when the kids are young.

Ginger Clark: do another polish on your manuscript before sending it out. The ending is probably not good enough.

David Wiesner: There are different ways to approach an idea. Don’t force what doesn’t work.

Kirby Larsen: Research combined with poetry can help you grow an appropriate vocabulary for your character.

Lin Oliver & Henry Winkler: Write the kind of humor that makes you laugh.

Jarrett Krosoczka: Try new things and see what works.

Overall, the conference was inspiring and informative. Plus I got to stay some of the nights with my BFF D-Chan, who lives nearby. She let me try on all of her wigs, which was super-fun. We went to some awesome restaurants, including Fab Hot Dogs, which I’d been looking forward to for MONTHS. And we had ramen at this place that has probably ruined me for all future ramen forever. So now I need to go back!

THANK YOU to the SCBWI California North/Central region for making my trip possible with a grant!

Off to Los Angeles

Okay, so now the time travel aspect of this post is even MORE confusing, because I forgot to post it. But I can’t have my gorgeous artwork NOT go up. Besides, my brain is still exploding (mostly in a good way) from all the inspiration and information I soaked up at the LA conference.

Below is what I meant to post last Friday, and forgot….

Well, I’m writing this in advance & scheduling it to post because RIGHT NOW (I mean, in the future, sorta) I am at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA!

This is the first time I’ve been away from Maverick overnight. (I know, sad, isn’t it?) He’ll be fine, in the capable hands of Homes and Gran. I wonder how I’m holding up (that’s me, in the past, writing about the future except I’m writing this right NOW. Is this how writers feel when they write time travel books? I could never do this, whether in the past, present, or future).

Anyway. I made Z and Maverick each a book about me being gone. They’re in such capable hands that I don’t want them to forget all about me. I did a book for Z last time I went to LA, but she’s older now so she gets a new one. (You can click the image to enlarge it; otherwise it’s too faint to read.)

I Love You Mav 2013 Excerpt I Love You Z 2013 Excerpt

Next week, a general report on my experience as a first-time international SCBWI conference attendee.

And, of course, a report on the awesome restaurants DChan takes me to.

The Arms of the Ocean

A beautiful thing happened this week. I finished typing in my handwritten revisions for Draft 3 of my surfing novel!!!!!!

Really, this is a small thing, and probably doesn’t deserve six exclamation points. Because I’d already made these revisions by hand on a printed-out copy, all I had to do was type them into the Scrivener document. So maybe it’s not that big of a deal.

But when I was having a crisis of confidence THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS TYPING, thinking THIS IS TERRIBLE with every keystroke, then, it starts to seem a bit bigger.

And when I was (not so) merrily type-type-typing away, I came to a note that said, “Need scene for such and such,” and I HADN’T WRITTEN THE SCENE. It’s a bit of a smack in the face to have to halt all the (easy?) typing work and actually create something from scratch. Even harder when, as I’m writing it, I’m thinking OH WAILY WAILY THIS IS TERRIBLE with every word.

So maybe it’s still awful (actually there’s no “maybe” about that), but now I can print the [expletive] thing out again and revise it once more.

That’s progress, my friends.

Also, how totally perfect is it that right after I finished typing, I had to pick up Z at school, and when I started the car, “Never Let Me Go,” by Florence + the Machine was playing – and the lyrics are:

In the arms of the ocean so sweet and so cold

And all this devotion I never knew went on

And the crashes are heaven for a sinner released

But the arms of the ocean delivered me

…which is absolutely awesome and goes with the surfing book SO WELL. It was unbelievably cool.

So big thing or little thing, typing up those changes feels big, and it’s gotten me excited again about a book I’ve been struggling with from the very beginning.